FEMA Chief Says Agency Struggling to Fill Vacant Jobs

FEMA is struggling to fill hundreds of vacant jobs before the June 1 start of the annual hurricane season, the agency's chief said Thursday.

R. David Paulison, acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said "a couple hundred" staff positions are open, forcing many remaining employees to work "pretty much seven days a week."

Additionally, FEMA is under order to create 795 new jobs — so-called surge teams specializing in immediate disaster response coordination — by June 1.

"It's a big push right now to make sure those positions that are vacant, and have been vacant for a while, would get filled," Paulison said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Staffers have been working pretty much seven days a week, and we need to make sure we have enough people here to do the job so we can continue to move into this hurricane season."

It was not immediately clear precisely how many jobs are vacant. FEMA has a full-time work force of 2,500 when fully staffed.

The vacancies are agency-wide, spanning from regional positions in states to the Washington headquarters, Paulison said. "We're just going to fill as many as we can so we don't burn staff out," Paulison said.

FEMA spokeswoman Nicol Andrews said the vacancy rate is lower than the federal average. Still, Paulison said, "we need to be full. FEMA's got to be full because of what we're being asked to do."